CFOs explore the future during exquisite dinner at the Saxon

Finance leaders shared fears and aspirations for the future with special guest, futurist Graeme Codrington.

The CFO of the not-too-distant future is an entirely different animal. Great finance leaders will be known for experimentation, a focus on the future and getting the most out of people with the intelligent assistance of databases, algorithms and software.

Those were some of the conclusions during the exquisite CFO Futurealist dinner series at the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg, made possible with the support from software company Sage.

Globally renowned futurist Graeme Codrington (pictured), who was a special guest at the dinner, said:

“In five years’ time the job description of the CFO should be very different. The reports that the CFO’s team produces should just be emailed around and assumed read. The CFO’s contribution in board meetings should be about the future.”

The Saxon is one of South Africa’s most astonishing dinner venues and made for a perfect setting for finance leaders to come together for a freewheeling but, at the same time, profound conversation about the fast-changing world in which we live. All it took for the lively and candid exchange of ideas to ignite was a short introduction and welcome by CFO South Africa community manager John Deane, with the opening question: “What excites you and what scares you about the future?”

In between lots of laughs and a fantastic three-course meal, CFOs Pieter Henning (Sibanye-Stillwater Southern Africa), Shivan Mansingh (Metrofile), Craig Sumption (Hatch Africa), Hannes Boonzaaier (Afrocentric), Pieter de Wit (Afrimat), and Cheryl-Jane Kujenga (Adcorp) shared their thoughts, hopes, fears and aspirations with fellow dinner guests, Pieter Bensch (executive VP Sage) Matthew Kibby (VP Sage), Johan Du Plessis (CIO Afrimat) and Joël Roerig (MD CFO South Africa).

A big theme was the incredible pace of technological development that is changing the reality and viability of existing businesses. Cheryl-Jane commented that finance teams “will become redundant if we don’t start using our minds more”, a thought that was echoed by Craig. Graeme shared some incredible examples of modern data analytics. In California, he said, it was discovered that earthquakes can be predicted faster by using data from all the wearable Fitbits in that area.

Hannes said we are in the middle of a healthcare revolution due to tech and he is most excited by the opportunity to make “healthcare accessible for the masses at affordable cost”. Pieter Bensch shared his experience at a Lego Robotics programme for underprivileged school pupils. Quite a few of the children vowed to change their curriculum and take up mathematics after seeing the cool tech, a crucial development in South Africa’s education system.